6 Steps To Take Before You Get An IUD

If you are thinking about getting an IUD and are wondering how to prepare, then congratulations: you’ve just made the first step toward securing long-term protection from unwanted pregnancies. Among all the contraceptive options out there, IUDs remain among the best ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies; in fact, an IUD, which is 99.4 percent effective at preventing pregnancy, making it reliable as getting your tubes tied — only completely reversible. With stats like that, it's no surprise that so many women want to get an IUD.

But despite the effectiveness and convenience of IUDs, a recent survey finds that the number of young people opting for long-term methods of birth control still remains fairly low. The Pill, for women of all ages, remains the preferred method of birth control, with only eight percent of women using the IUD. Some of that has to do with the cost: According to Planned Parenthood, an IUD can cost up to $1,000 (that includes the medical exam, the actual IUD, and then the procedure to have it inserted). Of course, some insurance companies cover all of that.

And as more and more women educate themselves, the amount of women who use IUDs is on the rise. In 2002, only 2.4 percent of women had IUDs. By 2007, the number rose to 5.5 percent, and now here we are eight percent. So if you’re considering getting an IUD, here are the six steps that will make sure you’re prepared.

1. Make An Appointment With Your Gynecologist For A Consultation & STI Test

You'll want to talk to your gynecologist about your IUD plan way before you start comparison shopping for different brands, or talking to your insurance about what they'll cover. There are a few reasons for this — you'll want to discuss the procedure in detail with a professional, and go over any potential risks — but the most important reason is to make sure that you don't currently have any STIs.

This is more important than it may sound — studies have found that women with an undiagnosed STI who get an IUD can end up getting pelvic inflammatory disease. But if your insurance won't cover multiple visits, don't fret — you can be tested for STIs on the same day you get your IUD and, should it be positive, be treated for an STI with your IUD in place. But it will be less stressful to get it all settled away beforehand.

2. Get Informed About Your Different IUD Options

There's more than one kind of IUD on the market, so it’s important to be aware of their differences so that you can choose the right option. In addition to the two traditional IUD options — Mirena, an IUD that releases hormones, and Paragard, a hormone-free IUD — there is now Skyla, a more compact IUD that also releases hormones.

Mirena is a plastic IUD that contains the hormone progestin and can last for up to five years. It can also give you lighter periods. Paragard is the IUD that is made of plastic and copper and doesn’t contain any hormones, making it an ideal choice for women who want a totally natural birth control. Paragard can stay in your body — and stay effective — for up to 12 years.

Skyla is the smallest IUD on the market, and was actually designed with women who haven't had children in mind, although women who have had babies are still welcome to use it. (A woman who hasn't had a child yet has a smaller uterus making Skyla a better fit, because pregnancy sort of stretches thing out a wee bit in there.) Similar to Mirena, Skyla is plastic and releases progestin, but in addition to its more compact size, it lasts for only three years rather than five, making it a better option for women who might want kids in the next few years.

3. Call Your Insurance Company

An IUD is a longterm investment, and compared to paying your birth control copay every month for 20 years, is actually pretty cheap. Still, the cost of an IUD varies depending on the model you're buying and your insurance. For example, without insurance, Mirena can run you about $325 to $350, simply for the IUD itself — the insertion procedure costs extra. Purchasing the Paragard our of pocket can cost anywhere from $80 to $160. And Sklya can pretty much break the bank, running anywhere from $650 to $780 if you're paying on your own. The IUD procedure can cost anywhere from $35 to $200, with that higher amount going to those who don't have insurance.

If you have insurance, you may be in luck (or not). Not all insurance companies cover IUD insertion in its entirety. Some will cover the procedure, but not the cost or the IUD itself, or vice versa. Every insurance plan is different, so be prepared to spend a lot of time calling your insurance company (and getting put on hold) until somebody tells you exactly how much of the procedure your plan will cover. If you have insurance through the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare), then your insurance is supposed to cover all FDA-approved methods of birth control, including IUDs, without even having to pay a copay.

If insurance coverage isn’t an option for you, then you may want to try Planned Parenthood — Planned Parenthood offers birth control on a sliding scale based on your income, because they’re awesome, and that includes IUDs.

4. Find Out Where You Want To Get An IUD

This is where your insurance plan (if you have one) comes into play. You will need to ask your insurance company about the health care providers covered by your insurance plan who insert IUDs. Your normal gynecologist may offer this service, or they may not — you'll have to ask. If you don't have insurance coverage, then it's just a matter of finding a gynecologist whom you feel most comfortable with.

5. Schedule Your Appointment For The First Few Days Of Your Period

You should consider getting your IUD when you have your period. Although you can have it inserted anytime of the month, as Planned Parenthood points out, your cervix is most open when you're menstruating, and that will help ease the pain of the procedure. If you're concerned about your gynecologist dealing with all that blood, just remind yourself that they've seen it all before — and have probably inserted an IUD into a menstruating vagina within the past few days.

6. Prepare For The Procedure

Although having an IUD inserted isn’t a major procedure, it is still a medical procedure, and may require some physical and emotional preparation. While some say the insertion process doesn’t hurt too much, others have likened the experience to “someone throwing darts at my cervix.” Everyone's different.

Women who haven’t had children usually experience more pain than those who haven’t, but either way, it’s best to mentally prepare for cramping and a bit of bleeding after insertion, no matter your pregnancy history — so try to avoid going back to work or doing physical labor immediately after insertion, if possible.

The best way to prep is go in with an open mind, have a clear understanding of what to expect, and not stress out — but also realize that a foreign item is being placed in your uterus, so it’s not like it’s going to be a walk in the park. Doctors also suggest taking ibuprofen before the procedure to help with the pain.

You will need to go back to your doctor in four to six weeks after insertion, to make sure things are going well. And if they are (which they most likely will be), you'll be good to go and free from pregnancy worries for the next three to twelve years!

Images: Sarah Mirk/Flickr; Giphy(5)